Small businesses concerned about potential changes to NAFTA: survey

Ottawa, August 16, 2017 - Nearly one-third (28 per cent) of Canadian small businesses that trade with the United States and/or Mexico say that the potential renegotiation of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) will alter their export and import plans, finds a new survey by the Canadian Federation of Independent Business (CFIB), Canada’s largest association of small and medium-sized businesses. The survey comes as the renegotiation of the three-nation trade deal begins today in Washington D.C. 

“There is a real concern, among our membership, that any changes to NAFTA could have significant effects on their ability to sell goods and services abroad, on their cost of importing goods, and on their ability to pass savings on to consumers,” said Corinne Pohlmann, CFIB senior vice president of national affairs. “As the negotiations begin, we have to ensure that NAFTA creates even more, not less, business opportunities for Canadian firms.”

Small and medium sized enterprises (SME’s) in Canada are key stakeholders in the tri-lateral pact which helps to facilitate approximately US$1 trillion in trade between Canada, the United States and Mexico.  Data from Industry Canada shows that, of all the firms in Canada that export, over 90 per cent are considered small businesses.

Importantly, one-in-three of the small businesses surveyed say that “favourable free trade agreements” influence their trade decisions.

“Given their prominent role in the Canadian economy, small and medium sized business owners should have a big say in the future of NAFTA and any changes that may ensue,” Pohlmann said.


On behalf of its members, CFIB has made the following recommendations for decision-makers to consider as part of the renegotiation of NAFTA:

  • Movement of labour: Ensure that the free flow of labour remains an important component of NAFTA and work to improve and clarify labour mobility rules.
  •  SME chapter: Include a chapter specifically addressing the needs and particular challenges faced by SMEs involved in trade.
  •  Red-tape (non-tariff barriers): Include a chapter that focuses on simplifying rules with the aim of reducing the overall administrative burden for small businesses involved in trade.
  • Trucking issues: Work to improve the speed at which trucks are able to cross the border.
  • The importance of duty-free: Renegotiation of NAFTA must ensure that trade remain as duty-free as possible and that the current range of duty-free goods within North America remain as is or be expanded.
  • Dispute resolution mechanisms: Review ways to improve current dispute resolution mechanisms to ensure equal treatment of all those involved and to guarantee that decisions will be respected by NAFTA members. 

CFIB will participate in government consultations to ensure that small business owners’ concerns are taken into account.

Read the full report along with recommendations.

The complete 2017 International Trade Survey consisted of responses from 4,399 CFIB members and included both members who did and members who did not trade with the US and/or Mexico. The survey was conducted online between May 15 and June 26, 2017. Results are statistically accurate within plus or minus 1.48 per cent, 19 times out of 20.

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CFIB is Canada’s largest association of small and medium-sized businesses with 109,000 members across every sector and region.